Health & Medicine

Coffee Party offers an alternative to Tea

I watched at work as much of the health care summit as I could without getting fired and was saddened by the disconnect I saw.

People who were supposed to have our interests — their bosses' interest — at heart seemed to be clinging instead to the talking points of their political parties that they hoped would help them get re-elected.

Whatever happened to the statesmen whom we learned about in early American history? Compromise and the earnest desire to make this country great won out when there were disagreements.

Now, it seems, "It's my way or the highway."

Right about now, you should imagine my heavy sigh.

Wallowing in that funk, I saw something on Facebook about a Coffee Party movement, and I immediately passed on by. But then I saw a couple of other references and finally someone e-mailed, urging me to look into the grass-roots movement.

My wallowing stopped.

The Coffee Party movement is an effort to challenge the idea that the Tea Party movement defines Americans, said Annabel Park, who accidentally started it. Park, 41, a filmmaker in Washington, D.C., commented on her Facebook page about a month ago that someone should start a "smoothie party. Red Bull party. Anything but tea. Geez."

The response she received prompted her to create the Join the Coffee Party page on Facebook and later a Web site, www.coffeepartyusa.com.

The core mission, according to the Web site, is to give "voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government.

Thousands of people have joined, with chapter requests from at least 30 states, and others waiting to be included. Kentucky's chapter is up and running.

There are plans for a meeting in Louisville or Lexington soon.

That is nowhere near the numbers that the Tea Party movement boasts, with 1,200 chapters and a recent national conference.

But the rapid growth of the Coffee Party shows just how quickly the grass-roots cry for change has grown. There are nearly 40,000 fans of the Facebook page.

Park has been interviewed on the radio and by The Washington Post.

During one radio interview, Park said that the Coffee Party's growth stems from the frustration of people whose needs are not being met. "They are not whimsical needs," she said. "We need health care. We need help finding jobs.

"I didn't come up with anything new," said Park, who came to the United States from South Korea with her family when she was 9. "We were all feeling this at the same time."

So, what exactly does the Coffee Party want?

Park told Progressive Blend Radio, an Internet radio program, "Coffee is not the opposite of tea. It is an alternative."

She said members are interested in fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, just as are members of the Tea Party. The difference, she said, was the way to arrive at those goals. The Coffee Party folks don't see the government as an enemy.

They, Park said, want to work together toward solutions, but the political process has "really broken down. We want democracy restored."

"We are an American community even if we disagree," she said. "We have to start from that position. We have shared interests and goals."

That unification, she said, has to come from the grass roots, not from the top down.

Who knows, it might evaporate as quickly as it appeared, but it's nice to see others who are just as frustrated with the name-calling and vitriol as I am. The Coffee Party is very loosely organized, but several chapters have met to discuss the next step.

Whatever that step is, it should be one in which a person may voice dissension without being vilified.

It's the idea behind the friendship of former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who could fight hard on issues but remained friends.

It's that statesman thing again.

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